Abandoned Mine Lands Program

Background

The Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) Program is focused on mitigating potential human health and ecological concerns associated with contamination from legacy heavy metal mining operations (inactive or abandoned mine lands) occuring primarily prior to September 1, 1989. AML sites operated generally from the 1860's through the late-20th century on both public and private lands within the State of Nevada. AML sites may include mills, mill tailings, acid mine drainage, waste rock dumps, heap leach pads, pit lakes, chemical hazards, and associated structures and roads. 

Scope and Authority

Nevada Administrative Code (NAC) 445A and Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) 445A and 459 provide the authority to oversee assessment and corrective action on AML sites. Mining operations active since September 1, 1989 generally fall under the purview and regulations of the Bureau of Mining Regulation and Reclamation.

Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Sites on Publicly owned and/or privately owned lands with an identified owner/operator. On private land AML Program works with responsible parties or owners/operators to resolve contamination problems and minimize human health risks and environmental hazards. For private land with no viable owner/operator, or with a lack of funding or bonding necessary to complete a restoration deemed necessary, the AML Program gains access to and assesses the site, determines a remedy, seeks and obtains funding to complete the work, completes the necessary reclamation work, and monitors the remedy to determine if the land has been restored to a stable or safe condition. On public lands the AML Program coordinates with the BLM and/or USFS or other public land managers to restore lands damaged or threatened by historic mining operations.

Site Assessment and Ranking The AML Program is developing a phased site research, reconnaissance and ranking methodology. The first step regarding a specific site reclamation project is an initial site assessment, which may include O/O searches, public and private property records search, discussions with other agencies, data accumulation, site visits, and other investigative techniques. Site visits may include soil screening, UAV survey mapping, and/or water or waste sampling and analysis.

The ranking of sites for more detailed assessment will follow from initial information gathered. A hazard ranking criteria schema is utilized to assist in the ranking of sites. The hazard ranking utilizes ten human health and environmental criteria, and associated weighting factors, to analyze the key elements that play a role in prioritizing AML environmental reclamation work. The basic criteria are: exposure to human population; exposure to environment; presence of sensitive species or critical habitat; currently degrading waters of the State; adits with water; distance to perennial surface water; depth to groundwater; proximity to supply wells; presence of chemical hazards ; and known acute, or chronic toxic effects.

The utilization of this methodology benefits from stakeholder outreach and review to assure it is implemented effectively. Once the risks associated with AML, the sites are prioritized for further site assessment and/or remedial action. The poential remedial alternatives are evaluated, funding sources are identified, and plans for proceeding at each site are developed. The costs of remedial actions are also considered as are other management concerns. Concerning prioritizing resources, NDEP will focus on sites where releases present a known or potential direct human or environmental exposure and where sources of funding may be available.

Potential Remedial Strategies  The AML Program addresses environmental hazards associated with abandoned mine sites in a variety of ways, utilizing proven and innovative technologies. Hazard remediation work may include, but is not limited to: redirecting stream flow around tailings and mining wastes; capping mining waste and tailings piles; removal of waste rock and tailings piles; installing drains at adits to reduce or control flow of metal-laden, low pH-water; applying low-cost, low-maintenance water treatment technologies; and removing chemical hazards and impacted soils.

Partners and Funding

Potential Partners To ensure AML Program long-term effectiveness and sustainability, and site reclamation effectiveness, the program has initiated and will continue to coordinate with partner organizations, including, but not limited to:

  • U.S. Bureau of Land Management
  • U.S. Forest Service
  • U.S. Army Corpo of Engineers
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • U.S. Geological Survey
  • Nevada Division of Minerals
  • Nevada Department of Wildlife
  • United States Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Trout Unlimited
  • Nevada Mining Association
  • Desert Research Institute
  • University of Nevada, Reno - Engineering and/or Hydrology Graduate Programs

Program Funding Tools and Mechanisms  The AML Program continually requires funding for site assessment activities and site reclamation work. Various potential funding mechanisms are identified, opportunities are explored, and utilizaed as they become available.

Acid Mine Drainage Information and Links

Mining Process & Non Process Waste Links

Good Samaritan Program Links

Internal Links

National Abandoned Mine Lands Programs Links

External Abandoned Mine Lands Links

Other States Abandoned Mine Lands Programs

Other Links

Nevada Statutes and Regulations

Code of Federal Regulations

Contact Information
Abandoned Mine Lands Program
Bureau of Corrective Actions
Nevada Division of Environmental Protection
901 S. Stewart St., Ste. 4001
Carson City, NV 89701
Fax: 775-687-8335

Jeryl Gardner Abandoned Mine Lands Program Manager

Phone: 775-687-9484 / jgardner@ndep.nv.gov

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